[image description: a blue and white stripped deck chair with a copy of Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol in it. Above that the words The Summer Reading Challenge are written in an arc (split in two lines with challenge on the second). Plain font, dark blue. The background is white]
I was given a copy of After You by Julie Buxbaum to review as a part of Transworld's Dan Brown Summer Reading Challenge
Ellie's best friend Lucy is brutally murdered and she travels from the US to London to care for Lucy's daughter Sophie who witnessed the murder. This is the story of how they cope with the "accident" which affected them all. And how in travelling so far from home to help Sophie, Ellie comes to discover exactly who she is and recover from her own personal tragedy of some years ago.
Ellie and Sophie read The Secret Garden together in their grief and whilst this book is about so much more than The Secret Garden, it is a lovely tribute to the book. And it includes a visit to the real "Secret Garden" which inspired Frances Hodgson Burnett. I didn't know there was one but googling tells me it's Great Maytham Hall I'm now thinking that a Secret Garden re-read will be in my relatively near future as it's left me hankering to read those familiar words. I adore the Secret Garden. When I was about 11 we went on holiday for a fortnight (to Majorca I think), my mum bought me two books to take. One of which was The Secret Garden. I read all of and then bits again and again during that holiday. I don't think I read more than a couple of pages of Treasure Island.
Anyway, back to After You. It's well written and it totally draws you in. The characters are really believable, make you care for them and they grow and evolve just as people do as the book goes on. All signs of a very good writer. This book is the perfect length, it doesn't drag at all and it doesn't feel rushed either. It's very hard to put down and several times I meant to read just a few pages which turned into multiple chapters.
This book isn't standard frothy chicklit. It's chicklit with substance and is totally believable. At one point I was convinced I knew what was going to happen next as it was the obvious chick lit next thing but it didn't happen. Also some of the plot points I thought would be in there were but in a realistic way not in an "and then they all lived happily ever after like in a fairytale" way as happens all too often in books.
The only disappointment I had with this book was the fact it ended. It's a very good ending and I liked it. But it really really left me wanting to know what happened next, how did Sophie get on? What does Ellie do? Are they all OK now? Totally ridiculous but it just goes to show how good a book this is. I would have liked a "six months later" type epilogue or a sequel. There is definite room for a sequel and I'd love that. I don't think that's what Julie Buxbaum is planning though. I will be keeping my eye out for her first book, The Opposite of Love.
After You was the last of my four books from The Summer Reading Challenge. I think they definitely saved the best for last.